Plant This, Not That

Spring is finally here, which means it is time for local gardeners to get back out in our yards. Remember: even if you do not live directly on the water, everything that you do in your yard affects our local waterways. River-friendly gardening practices means selecting the right plants for your yard. Any fertilizers or pesticides you put in your yard can be washed into our waterways when it rains. Native plants require no fertilizer, pesticides, or watering once established, meaning less pollution in local waterways and less maintenance overall. Native plants also provide valuable food sources and habitat for local wildlife, whereas many invasive plants can escape from home gardens and spread into natural areas where they crowd out native species. Do your part by keeping invasive plants out of your yard and planting Florida native plants instead. 

Plant Beautyberry, Not Mexican Petunias

Looking for a splash of purple for your yard? Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) also called the American Mulberry, is a low-maintenance shrub that can be planted any time of the year and is drought resistant once established. It showcases its flowers in the spring and summer and will attract birds with its bright purple berries in the fall. 

Mexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex), although commonly labeled as "Florida Friendly" in some stores, are classified as highly invasive by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. While they do flourish in the Florida climate, they can escape planter boxes and easily become well-established and spread, choking out other native plants becoming very difficult to remove once established.


Plant Coral Bean, Not Mother of Millions

Coral Bean, Erythrina herbacea, is a colorful native plant that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds with its blooms. This deciduous shrub feature blooms in the spring and then bears fruit through the winter. Its thick branches provide shelter to birds and small animals. Coral Bean is salt tolerant and does well in sandy soil.

Mother of Millions, Kalanchoe delagoensis, is another plant that loves sandy soil, but is harming our coastal landscape. This hardy succulent produces over 16,000 seeds per fruit and spreads rapidly. However its shallow roots do not anchor dunes as well as other plants leading to coastal erosion. It often crowds out native plants such as sea oats, which provide a critical food source for the endangered Anastasia Island Beach Mouse. 


Plant Yaupon Holly, Not Brazilian Peppertree

Yaupon Holly, Ilex vomitoria, is a hardy evergreen shrub. In the spring, both male and female plants flower, attracting pollinators. The female plants then go on to produce abundant berries that range in color from yellow to red and provide a food source for wildlife. These trees are both drought and salt tolerant and their dense branches provide shelter for birds and other small animals.

Brazilian Peppertree, Schinus terebinthifolia, is one of the most aggressive invasive plants in Florida. These trees grow up to 30 feet tall and choke out native plants. It is in the same family as plants such as poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak - so people who are sensitive to those plants may also have an unpleasant reaction to Brazilian Peppertree.


Plant Native Lantana, Not Invasive Lantana

Lantana is hardy and has colorful blooms that attract butterflies and other pollinators, making it a popular choice for gardeners. Native Lantana is a shrubby groundcover that prefers full sun and is salt and heat tolerant.

Invasive Lantana can easily take over a landscape and is toxic to many animals. It is prized by gardeners for its vibrant colors, but has outcompeted native lantana to the point that the latter is now listed as endangered. You can tell them apart by paying attention to the Latin names. The native lantana is called Lantana depressa while the invasive version is Lantana camara.


Plant Coral Honeysuckle, Not Japanese Honeysuckle

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), also called trumpet honeysuckle, is a native plant that features orange or red blooms which attract hummingbirds. It can grow in partial shade, but prefers full sun. This plant is low maintenance and drought tolerant in the hot summer months. 

Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is an invasive ornamental vine native to Asia. It grows very quickly in the Florida climate. It is known for taking over small trees and shrubs and choking out native plants.